I’ve never had a vision and rarely, alas, have even seen anything out of the ordinary.  An exception was the genesis of this poem, an agent of death in the landscape of a peaceful, pokey little island where not too much is ever going on except the grass, the trees, the wildlife and the ocean. Which is why one keeps going back.  But the idyllic can be smashed in an instant.


I’ll never forget the day the Bone flew over the island
Two thousand feet screaming east northeast
Really rumbling, the norteamericano B-1 bomber
I had to ask myself what is it doing over these sovereign isles?
These godamn gringos are trespassing our country again
I’m going to do something about this–
But I did nothing but stare in awe
And the strange sonic rumbling of power and death from above
Nuclear warheads on time and budget
Low and slow over Lyall Harbour
Was he lost?
That’s hardly likely
Where he was from or going there has never been a word
But that it was a Bone and flying low over Lyall, over Saturna Island
Which, granted, is below the 49th parallel
I remember sitting in my deck chair and suddenly I was wondering–
What is that effing sound from on high?  And looking up
And seeing that bomber and ID-ing it immediately
All those back issues of “Air International” finally paying off!
Cover story on the Bone one time, including schematics
I read the whole thing with interest–
Not like it’s new, the Bone’s been around more than twenty years
Nuclear holocaust on target and designed for that mission
Nuclear or conventional we will be going strong

It was the primeval all encompassing throaty roar
Of those jet engines out of nowhere that got me going
Sitting here on this deck above Lyall Harbour on a July afternoon
I looked up, I was so proud
I instantly knew what that strange aircraft was
It was a low roar, death-like
Ugly and disturbing because of its strangeness
The big D from above, low and slow

That sound was the apocalypse from above
The delivery of mechanistic death out of nowhere, now
It was a sound never heard in these peaceful skies
Where the planes are light
Airplanes drone around here, they don’t snarl
The B1-B heavy bomber–
I was involved in a test flight gone horribly wrong
To have him cruising low over Saturna
Maybe the crew just didn’t know the border dips around here
That these Southern Gulf Islands are Canadian–
‘Oh dear, Chuck, we may have just transected the Canadian border
‘What is our course?’
That guttural, growling sound from above.  What is that noise?
And there it was, the lone lost B-1 Bone on top of the trees
I never looked into the event in any way, not even calling 911
It just came cruising by at a couple thousand feet
It made it easy to identify
You knew what you were looking at if you knew what to look for
Four GE-102 turbofans screaming fire
Variable sweep wings in low and slow
A hundred forty six feet of monster plane anywhere anytime–
Was Whidbey Island doing something?
That’s a naval station anyway
Had the lights gone out at old Fort Lewis?

‘You do what you need to in the changing requirements of the mission
‘Get all your rest
‘Study the flight plan
‘You’re taking us low and slow over Saturna Island
‘Make it smooth, operational
‘Cruising low it’s unlikely you’re lost, old buddies
‘We know where you get your wings and everything about you
‘No one is lost in a Bone crackling over Saturna Island
‘The Bone always knows where it is and what it’s doing
‘We are not joyriding at Whatcom County Fair, folks
‘Just a little death from above….  ’
It’s that startling, crackling sound coming from the sky, you look up
Big, throaty bird

Imagine the destructive damage deliverable by the Bone
‘What it has done and can do I will do
‘I will obey orders or is this some other org. than the USAF?
‘What I’m doing here I’m admittedly not all that sure myself
‘I think we cleared it with the Mounties…  is that a joke?
‘Nice view
‘We fly pretty high so most of the time we’re just lookin’ at sky
‘And that old earth seems a far away place if we see it at all
‘We fly at night a lot
‘From up here there’s the occasional light way down there
‘On a long flight we spell off
‘Like if we’re goin’ to Asia or somethin’?
‘You have to stretch out on the long missions
‘If we pop a few pills it’s all in the plan as depicted in press releases
‘I don’t ever read ’em
‘M’am, we defend freedom.’

Author: Steven Brown


5 thoughts on “Airshow”

  1. Yikes.
    Incongruent, to say the least.
    Reminds me of a not-too-long-ago trip to Whidbey Island–“The sound of freedom” they called it.
    Sounded like death to me.
    Powerful, bro.


  2. Learning the ropes, following the thread…

    Reminds me of a not-too-long-ago trip to Whidbey Island.
    “The Sound of Freedom,” they called it.
    Sounded like death to me.


    1. Thanks for the comment. The “numbers” may be a little lumpy here and there in this unit, meaning the rhythms and beat, but that’s blank verse for you. Also, a lot of the stuff that’s going to be appearing here can be considered draft, so that let’s me out. Thinking back to the encounter with the bomber that led to “Bone” it was flying lower than two thousand feet. It was closer to five hundred feet but definitely no more than a thousand. It was really close, which leant an air of immediacy, so I’m going to have to change that. I remember looking up and thinking for a second has something really major happened that I don’t know about yet? Has my vacation been ruined?


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